Saturday, 22 February 2014


It's the title of an early Joyce Carol Oates novel, possibly her best and deserving a place in the US literary canon.

_THEM_ depicts the chaotic lives of a family living in poverty in the Detroit slums, from the 1930s to the 1967 riots.  Oates draws a vivid portrait of a matriarch, from self-awakening as a naive young mother nagged by regrets at the age of sixteen, to a mature woman whose aspirations and struggles encompass the destinies of her children battling to survive in a perilous world fraught with violence. Poor white trash folks, before that epithet became a thing.

US against THEM is also a binary construct that imposes constraints and limits possibilities.

This imperative to separate people into opposite camps, assigned to one side or the other of an arbitrarily determined divide, is a facile reflex.  Though some sociobiologists would claim that every human brain is instinctually wired to respond in this manner because: survival strategy! I find their arguments oozing with smarminess and confirmation bias.

This polarizing framework is certainly omnipresent throughout history, across varied and numerous ideological and cultural settings.

Demonize, other-wize, isolate, target. 

Blue dot.

And thus, with regard to this ill-advised model that the Liberal Party of Canada is heavily promoting, today's JT speech announces what awaits Canadians in the 2015 election campaign, if THE MIDDLE-CLASS becomes its strategic meme (though it could morph into a much abused trope).

As someone who grew up in a rough-and-tumble mostly francophone area with many immigrants, working class (and working poor) in a town that's now part of Ottawa, I find this ploy repellent.

Though I may seem to be a member of this elusive and more likely, illusive demographic that the Liberal brain-trust is desperately trying to seduce into its camp, it does NOT speak to me. 

When I hear the expression "upward mobility" deployed in JT's speech as though it were an exalted entitlement, I retch.  Meaningful work, a decent salary, a social safety net: those are important elements that should not be available only to those who buy into the "upward mobility" scam, or more accurately, a form of fancy-schmancy Ponzi economic scheme beatified by the likes of Larry Summers and his sycophants.

I think of my daughter, who by virtue of her hard work and personal sacrifices, is now an accomplished physician who gives back to the communities she has pledged to serve and respect.  I really don't think this marketing gimmick will speak to her.

As I do, she may find it repugnant and exclusionary.

THEM is the group that I historically and emotionally identify with, that demographically disregarded and invalidated class that JT and his team discount when the focus becomes exclusively *THE MIDDLE-CLASS*.

THEM includes many many many people, and not only those who have fallen on hard times. We may not be the potential rich donors the PLC is wooing, but we can smell a deliberate shun.  And when we are angered, we vote.

You can't take that to the bank but you can count on it.

As an aside, is the NDP's best shot at challenging the credibility of JT's speech really this

Mulcair's communications flaks would do much better to query how much Summers charged the LPC for his tired dog-and-pony show at the convention.  Was the party billed his preferential Wall Street rate - for "friends"?


janfromthebruce said...

excellent piece.

deBeauxOs said...

Merci! Sorry it took so long to post your comment.

I just got out of the Lib14 plenary where I observed the dynamics between folks for and against specific resolutions, as you may have read if you saw my tweets about them.

There are a couple more blogposts about the convention, to come.

Beijing York said...

You and Kev at "Trapped in a Whirlpool" are on the same page in assessing the LPC's positioning. It is totally infuriating. I know fully appreciate the frustrations of my leftist/progressive friends in the US - there are no choices - just parties and politicians controlled by corporate interests and catering to affluent voters (be they upwardly mobile "middle class" or established elites).

Sadly, it used to be that the NDP did provide some cleavage towards socially progressive policy and governance that definitely distinguished us from the US. I don't see much of that any more. Both parties are vying for the sophisticated affluent vote - pro-LGBT and economically successful women's rights, pro culture and arts and pro-science as long as those policies remain subservient to the economic thrust of their governance.

Kev said...


deBeauxOs said...

Grand merci, BY & Kev.

I spoke with some delegates to Lib14, our peers and contemporaries; they were turned off, greatly disturbed by the emphasis put on this "middle class" messaging.

lagatta à montréal said...


Especially in light of the riding JT represents, historically working-class and a mixture of francophones and various immigrant communities. Lots of people here (I live a bit south of there now, in Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie, after years in Papineau) are actually doing far worse than before.

deBeauxOs said...

Grand merci lagatta. J'apprécie beaucoup tes contributions et tes perspectives car elles sont empreintes d'une expérience de vie et d'une analyse socio-politico-historique qui ajoutent beaucoup aux discussions autour de ces questions.

lagatta à montréal said...

N'est-ce pas. Par ailleurs, j'ai un député de tonnerre, Alexandre Boulerice. Coup de chapeau ici, avec Françoise David à l'Assemblée nationale et l'équipe de Projet Montréal au Conseil.

Et comme le dit si bien la chanteuse acadienne Lisa LeBlanc, "Ma vie c'est d'la MARDE!" - Mais elle le dit avec de la joie...

deBeauxOs said...

Alexandre Boulerice était à la convention. Je croyais l'avoir reconnu, mais ça me semblait tellement incongru qu'un député NPD y soit que je ne suis pas allée lui parler. J'aurais dû...

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